Thinking Out Loud

April 14, 2017

Quotations for Good Friday

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:51 am


Good Friday is the mirror held up by Jesus so that we can see ourselves in all our stark reality, and then it turns us to that cross and to his eyes and we hear these words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” That’s us! And so we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. We see in that cross a love so amazing so divine that it loves us even when we turn away from it, or spurn it, or crucify it. There is no faith in Jesus without understanding that on the cross we see into the heart of God and find it filled with mercy for the sinner whoever he or she may be.

~ Robert G. Trache


Christ died.  He left a will in which He gave His soul to His Father, His body to Joseph of Arimathea, His clothes to the soldiers, and His mother to John. But to His disciples, who had left all to follow Him, He left not silver or gold, but something far better – His PEACE!

~ Matthew Henry


God led Jesus to a cross, not a crown, and yet that cross ultimately proved to be the gateway to freedom and forgiveness for every sinner in the world. God also asks us as Jesus’ followers to carry a cross. Paradoxically, in carrying that cross, we find liberty and joy and fulfillment.

~ Bill Hybels


Christ is the Son of God. He died to atone for men’s sin, and after three days rose again. This is the most important fact in the universe. I die believing in Christ. –

~ Watchman Nee (Note found under his pillow, in prison, at his death)


As out of Jesus’ affliction came a new sense of God’s love and a new basis for love between men, so out of our affliction we may grasp the splendor of God’s love and how to love one another. Thus the consummation of the two commandments was on Golgotha; and the Cross is, at once, their image and their fulfillment.

~ Malcolm Muggeridge


The Christian community is a community of the cross, for it has been brought into being by the cross, and the focus of its worship is the Lamb once slain, now glorified. So the community of the cross is a community of celebration, a Eucharistic community, ceaselessly offering to God through Christ the sacrifice of our praise and thanksgiving. The Christian life is an unending festival. And the festival we keep, now that our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us, is a joyful celebration of his sacrifice, together with a spiritual feasting upon it.

~ John R. W. Stott


This Word played life against death and death against life in tournament on the wood of the most holy cross, so that by his death he destroyed our death, and to give us life he spent his own bodily life. With love, then, he has so drawn us and with his kindness so conquered our malice that every heart should be won over.

~ Catherine of Siena


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April 13, 2017

Good Friday: I Wish I’d Thought of It

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:03 am

In much younger days I had a friend who I said I would be willing to die for. I’m not sure if I went on record with this in an informal conversation or if it was said in a talk I would have given to a particular group of young adults.

Today, I’m not going to be dismissive of it. I’m not going to suggest it seems a little silly, though it does seem rather extreme. But is it? In a world where people donate kidneys and bone marrow to perfect strangers?

John 15:12 comes to mind: “There is no greater way to love than to give your life for your friends.” (The Voice).

The Good Friday narrative is something we could never have come up with by ourselves. 1 Corinthians 2:9 echoes Isaiah 64:4 “No one has ever seen this, and no one has ever heard about it. No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (NCV) In Isaiah 55:8-9 we’re reminded that “His ways are higher than ours,” translated elsewhere as:

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.  (NLT)

Just a few days ago we quoted Walter Wink, “If Jesus had never lived we would never have been able to invent him.”

…As I thought about this, a song title popped into my head, “A Strange Way to Save the World.” I don’t know this song at all, and a quick search proved it to be a Christmas song, not an Easter one; but the sentiment still applies namely, for those of us outside the Jewish sacrificial framework, the act of atonement would not have been predicted, and even within that context, a human sacrifice might not have been foreseen.

One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 10:11-12 (the reference is easily memorized)

11 Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. 12 But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. (NLT)

I wonder if back in that day, anyone ever looked the priests, “ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices” (NASB) and wondered, ‘What if we had a way to do this once and for all?’ Maybe that’s just me, or perhaps it’s just a 2017 mindset. Maybe they didn’t think like that back then. Or, ‘What if there was such a perfect sacrifice that this act need never be repeated?’

It was and is a strange way to save the world.

…I’m posting this on Thursday so we can think about it as we head into Good Friday. This whole thing, conceived in the mind of God is so simple that a child can understand it, but so intricately detailed that an adult can never cease to be fascinated by it.

And then there’s prophecy; that dozens upon dozens of prophecies are fulfilled on a single day. We often talk about a story that wraps up all its loose ends as, ‘putting a bow on it.’ In this one God ties up the bow and hands us a gift labelled, ‘For you.’

…Even as I write this I see my words’ deficiencies. I’m thinking of the plan of salvation and not focusing that in all of this Jesus is ushering in his kingdom. For 3+ years he teaches, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand;’ (see Matthew 4:17) and if this Easter weekend represents the climax of the story, then certainly his death and resurrection has huge kingdom implications. It’s hard to tell the whole story in a few short paragraphs and not leave something out.

However, we are on safe ground to allow ourselves to see this weekend in atonement terms. Looking to the cross we find forgiveness. Remembering his sacrifice on Good Friday we’re reminded that “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 CSB)

 

 

April 11, 2017

Judas’ Betrayal versus Peter’s Denial – Part Two

Peter and Judas as painted by DaVinci

A few weeks ago we were reading Luke 22:

NLT Luke 22:21 “But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me…”

and it occurred to me while we generally accept this as applying to Judas, there is a sense in which this could apply to Peter as well. We looked at this topic yesterday, but today we return with some words from Philip Yancey:

Judas was not the first or the last person to betray Jesus, merely the most famous.

To [the Japanese Christian novelist Shusaku Endo], the most powerful message of Jesus was his unquenchable love even for — especially for — people who betrayed him. When Judas led a lynch mob into the garden, Jesus addressed him as “Friend.” The other disciples deserted him but still he loved them. His nation had him executed; yet while stretched out naked in the posture of ultimate disgrace, Jesus roused himself for the cry, “Father, forgive them.”

I know of no more poignant contrast between two human destinies than that of Peter and Judas. Both assumed leadership within the group of Jesus’ disciples. Both saw and heard wondrous things. Both went through the same dithery cycle of hope, fear, and disillusionment. As the stakes increased, both denied their Master. There, the similarity breaks off

Judas, remorseful but apparently unrepentant, accepted the logical consequences of his deed, took his own life, and went down as the greatest traitor in history. He died unwilling to receive what Jesus had come to offer him. Peter, humiliated but still open to Jesus’ message of grace and forgiveness, went on to lead a revival in Jerusalem and did not stop until he had reached Rome.

~ Excerpt from the book Grace Notes as quoted at Zondervan blog.

At Redeeming God, Jeremy Myers has an excellent article on this subject. This is a very small excerpt:

…Maybe you remember that before Judas betrayed Christ, Satan entered into him (Lk. 22:3). And we think, “That’s why Judas was so evil.” But did you know that Jesus called Peter Satan? Once, as Jesus was walking along with his disciples, he was telling them what would happen to him in Jerusalem. He said that he would be put to death. Peter didn’t like to hear this, so he took Jesus aside, and rebuked him by saying, “Never Lord! Don’t say such things. This shall never happen to you.” How did Jesus respond? He looked right at Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matt 16:21-23; John 6:70-71).

So in other words, both Judas and Peter were influenced in one way or another by Satan. We can also be certain that both wanted Jesus to be someone he was not: a political, military, kingly ruler. Both wanted Jesus to rule and to reign and to judge. Both wanted him to overthrow the Romans, and set himself up as king, and return Israel to the glory they once had, and which is prophesied they will have again. Both wanted a type of Messiah that Jesus had not come to be. Again, all of us remember Judas for his betrayal, his treachery. But did you know that Peter betrayed Christ as well? Both turned their backs on Jesus. Judas sold Christ to those who wanted to kill him for 30 pieces of silver, which was the price of a slave.

…start at the beginning of that article here

Finally, a Roman Catholic website, Our Sunday Visitor, also offers was is an excellent study by Robert King on these two disciples:

…Contrary to how modern movies about Jesus often portray Peter, he was actually a religious man even before Jesus came into his life. He once responded to Christ with the statement, “I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean” (Acts 10:14), showing that he lived his life attempting to obey the laws and ordinances of God.

Unlike the self-righteous religious leaders of the day, Peter was also very aware of his own sinful state, declaring to Jesus, “depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5:8). Peter was so open to the inspiration of God that he was able to understand that Jesus was the Son of God (Mt 16:16-17).

We can also learn a lot from the way Jesus viewed Peter. It is quite clear from Scripture that Jesus saw within Peter something very special, an inner strength and a sincerity of purpose in following Him and in serving God…

…When we examine Judas’s character and lifestyle, we find quite a different story. Judas was the treasurer of the group, the one who held the money. When the woman poured the bottle of expensive ointment over Jesus’ feet, it was Judas who complained, declaring that the money could have been used for the poor (Jn 12:6-8).

Yet, we are told in this same passage Judas’s objection was because he was a thief who was stealing from the group’s money, and not because he really cared for the poor. Even in this incident, we see no real love or concern about Jesus, and only a false piety about the poor. Judas was more concerned about money than he was about Jesus. We can almost assume that there was absolutely no genuine concern about Jesus whatsoever.

According to the Scriptures, though Jesus often spoke encouraging words to Peter, He never spoke anything positive or encouraging to Judas. Jesus himself said that Judas was “a devil” (Jn 6:70-71). He also said that it would have been better if Judas had not even been born (Mt 26:24). Unlike the love Jesus had for Peter, there is no such evidence of any like emotion for Judas. This is because Jesus knew that Judas’s heart was full of self-interest and ulterior motives…

…start at the beginning of that article at this link

I hope you’ll consider delving into one of the last two items quoted here.

 

April 10, 2017

Judas’ Betrayal versus Peter’s Denial – Part One

Judas.

Peter.

Who screwed up most?

Does it matter?

Several years ago I was reading a classic, The First Easter, by Peter Marshall. It’s written in a style that actually reminds me so much of Rob Bell’s writing. I’ve read it out loud as part of our family Bible study, divided into seven sections of about twenty pages each. Last night was the middle part, which seemed to portray clearly great remorse on Judas’ part.

I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood… Jesus of Nazareth. He had done nothing amiss.

In a 2011 piece at the CNN Belief blog, Craig Gross discussed this topic in great detail. He describes asking his Facebook network if they believe Judas is in heaven or hell today? The first response was dogmatic.

Judas is in hell today. He’s been there for 2,000 years and he’ll be there forever.

Craig was not impressed. He notes how convinced everyone is that their view is correct. As if it matters. I know there have been times in my life where I denied the Savior. Maybe not as overtly as Peter. And I’m sure if I look there have been times where, by some mis-step, some mis-statement, some inflection or even laughter, I have betrayed the cause of Christ. Perhaps not with the same historical significance, but then, who is to say? Craig reminds me:

It is easier to debate these issues and make speculations about others than it is to actually look at ourselves in the mirror. It is always easier to think someone else is worse off then we are.

I guess my greater concern is how all of this puts the focus on the wrong person. Judas or Peter are not what this coming weekend is all about. It’s all about Jesus. It always has been. It’s a time to gaze deep into the eyes of the suffering Christ and through His pain, see Him reflecting back lavish amounts of love. To me. To you.

Allow nothing to take the focus off where it belongs. It was our sin — just as bad or worse than Peter’s or Judas’ — that put Jesus on the cross, but He willingly allowed this to give us a future and a hope.

Allow the love of Jesus Christ to overwhelm you in the next several days as we remember His death, and His triumph over death.

March 28, 2016

Every Sunday is Communion Sunday

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:25 am

Because of the centrality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to Christian faith and life, the best music you’ll hear in an Evangelical church happens on Easter Sunday and on Communion Sundays. If you go to Christianity 201 and scroll down the song list in the right margin, you’ll see that many of my personal recommended songs here are anchored in the theme of the cross and atonement.

If I were hiring a worship director for a local church, my interview would be very short: “You have five minutes; give me your set-list for Easter Sunday.” I’d leave the room and return 300 seconds later to see what that person could produce on such short notice.

When I was leading worship myself, if I ever felt that my original choices lacked a certain depth and richness; I’d scrap the list and say to myself, ‘Just pretend it’s a communion Sunday.’ The Bible teaches us that we have communion with God, though the phrase fellowship with God is more frequently used. You can check out some great Bible references here.

For Easter Monday, I want to present the last of four songs that came to mind this weekend. My friend Lorne Anderson did the same thing for Good Friday in one blog post. This is a cover from the concept album BC AD and actually the means by which I first became more familiar with Redeemer, Savior, Friend.


Coming later at Thinking Out Loud 

  • Churches across Canada stepped up to sponsor refugees.They rented apartments, raised money, obtained furniture and appliances, and poured thousands of hours into creating a warm welcome. So what happened to the families? A late Thursday government announcement got buried in the holiday weekend news cycle, that’s what happened. 
  • We’ve never monetized Thinking Out Loud, but this labor of love — along with our Christian bookstore — have totally depleted our savings. Still, how does one do effective fundraising in the face of other families and individuals with seemingly far more urgent needs? After our US/Canada 800-number, toll-free, call-in-a-pledge appeal failed last year, we’re looking for something that will actually help us keep going. We hope to have an answer late this week.  
  • Link List #301: We crossed the 300 mark last week. In an interconnected world, do we still need news and opinion gatekeepers?

March 26, 2016

A New Holy Week Experience

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:10 am

Last night for the first time, we attended a Tenebrae service in an Anglican (Canadian equivalent of Episcopal) Church. We like adventure. Wikipedia defines it best:

Tenebrae (Latin for “shadows” or “darkness”) is a Christian religious service celebrated in the Holy Week within Western Christianity, on the evening before or early morning of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Tenebrae is distinctive for its gradual extinguishing of candles while a series of readings and psalms are chanted or recited.

Very different from the Evangelical service I’d attended almost twelve hours earlier the same day. That one had 1,500 people over 3 services. This one had about 50 of us in a small church building that’s only 4 years away from being 200 years old. No welcome and announcements. No offering. No homily or sermon. No musical instruments. Just 100% scripture, either sung or spoken.

Probably the most striking feature was the use of texts not normally associated with Holy Week. Excerpts from Lamentations, and the use of Psalm 51 (and Psalm 150) seemed unusual given our place in the church calendar. I felt like the idea was to capture the emptiness, the bleakness that The Twelve, the women and the friends of Jesus would have felt at the cross, and that evening, and into Saturday.

What did they talk about? They were scattered somewhat, but they would have had homes to return to. We know some discussed a return to fishing. Did Matthew think about looking up his friends in the Tax Department?

What went through their minds?

That’s my subjective take on it. I can’t speak for what others were thinking. I would love to speak with those who wrote the liturgy.

At the end, the officiants, the choir and the congregation all leave in silence. Actually, we drove several blocks before anyone said anything. I’m a very social person and saw a few people we knew, and normally, on an occasion like this I would have struck up a conversation, but instead we left; us to our home, them to theirs.

My wife described it as “quiet, and thoughtful and centering.”

All in all, it was a service and a form we had never witnessed before where we came with no preconceived notions, no basis of comparison; and left with our thoughts full.


In contrast to the music we heard last night; our video today is a repeat of a song we’ve used here before. At The Foot of the Cross performed by Kathryn Scott.


Yesterday’s post at Christianity 201 started out as a simply copy-and-paste of an older article with a few quick revisions, but was expanded and after and hour of consideration became much more.

March 25, 2016

I Have Placed My Hope in a Crucified Man

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:15 am

April 5, 2015

How Can I Live Uncrucified?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:06 am

This is a song my wife wrote several years ago which she re-recorded more recently. (Coincidentally, today is her birthday; but she’d want the focus to be on the song, its subject and its message.)  Hit the play button below to listen.

Galatians 2:20

I will not live uncrucified
I will not live with heart unbroken
With unpierced hands and feet and side
With tears unshed and love unspoken
How could I live uncrucified
Knowing my Lord was crucified

With wounded hands he covers me
On bleeding feet he runs to save
With a broken voice, “Forgive” his plea,
With body killed shatters the grave
How could I live uncrucified
Knowing my Lord was crucified

On the day when death demands an answer
On the day when justice calls my name
I will stand and say you did my dying
I will stand and say you took my blame

So I’m taking my hands out of my pockets
Telling my feet get up and go
Teaching my tongue to talk your language
Tuning my heart to sing what I know

My Christ as you have died for me
Embraced the shame, knowing the cost
I pledge myself the same to be
To take up and carry my own cross
How could I live uncrucified
Knowing my Lord was crucified

© 2007 Ruth Wilkinson, all rights reserved

April 3, 2015

At The Cross

Filed under: Jesus — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:44 pm

c201 topToday’s blog post is presented jointly with Christianity 201, part of our blog network, which provides daily devotional and Bible study content 7-days-a-week.

Gal 6:14 May I never put anything above the cross of our Lord Jesus the Anointed. Through Him, the world has been crucified to me and I to this world.

This morning I attended two very different Good Friday services in two different towns. As I left the first one, and walked toward my car, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What is my takeaway for having been here?” Also, “What does the cross mean to me, personally?”

Really, I have no words. There is no verbal or written expression that can unravel the mystery or make an appropriate response to God’s transcendent love and Christ’s transcendent sacrifice. A song came to mind from Matt Redman, I Will Offer Up My Life, and the line

Oh my words could not tell, not even in part
Of the debt of love that is owed by this thankful heart.

As I thought about it later, the song is strongly oriented to Easter even though the title points to a personal response of sacrifice to God.

You deserve my every breath, for You’ve paid the great cost
Giving up your life to death, even death on the cross
You took all my shame away, there defeated my sin
Open up the gates of heaven and have beckoned me in

The cross does demand a response however, and for Redman, the songwriter, that response is defined at the outset, in the first verse,

I will offer up my life in spirit and truth
Pouring out the oil of love, as my worship to you
In surrender I must give my every part
Lord, receive this sacrifice of a broken heart

At the second service we looked at the verse in Galatians (above) and also this passage:

NIV I John 4:8b …God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

The speaker said that while “the holiness of God demanded that there be a punishment for sin, the love of God demanded that there be a way of salvation.” The sermon title was, “There Had to be a Cross.” That reminded me of another song by another British songwriter, Graham Kendrick, Here is Love. The speaker said the cross is the intersection of our sin and God’s love; you could also God’s requirement for justice meeting his loving mercy.

Grace and love like mighty rivers
Born incessant from above
Heaven’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love

My prayer today is that you also would find something new in the Good Friday/Easter narrative, and would make a personal response.

As a bonus, here’s the song that follows the one above from Graham Kendrick.

April 2, 2015

This is Maundy Thursday

Over the past five years we’ve seen a major shift in Evangelical observance of what the Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches call Holy Week. There is much more consciousness of Lent and even debates — because of the rapid shift in some denominations — as to its incorporation in Evangelicalism. While we’ve always been observant of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, there is also an increasing awareness of Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday. This article appeared here exactly five years ago…

2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. ~John 13: 2-5 (NIV)

What’s that saying? “A fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than you do.” Today I felt somewhat spiritually outclassed.

I spoke with someone and asked what their church was doing for Holy Week. They told me that their church was doing a service on Thursday, as well as Good Friday.

Thursday is called Maundy Thursday. The theological page Theopedia doesn’t cover it for some strange reason, but the regular Wikipedia site offers two explanations for the name, of which I give you the first:

FootwashingAccording to a common theory, the English word Maundy in that name for the day is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (13:34) by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet. The phrase is used as the antiphon sung during the “Mandatum” ceremony of the washing of the feet, which may be held during Mass or at another time as a separate event, during which a priest or bishop (representing Christ) ceremonially washes the feet of others, typically 12 persons chosen as a cross-section of the community.

As an aside, if you’re into church hopping, this is the day for you:

The tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday is an ancient practice, probably originating in Rome, where early pilgrims visited the seven pilgrim churches as penance.

Anyway, this church is having a foot washing as part of their Thursday service, and I was told, “Come and join us and we will wash your feet.”

I’ve never said that to anyone. And I’ve never washed anyone’s feet. I’m not totally comfortable with doing this or having it done for me. But the Biblical mandate to do this is quite clear. I feel like my spiritual pilgrimage is somewhat incomplete, like the person who has never been to Israel (or Wheaton, Illinois; the one time Evangelical equivalent, now displaced by Colorado Springs or Nashville; I’m not sure which.)

14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. ~John 13: 14-17 (NIV)

Does anyone see a loophole here? An opt-out clause? A reason why this doesn’t apply in the current dispensation?

I don’t.


…since the original article appeared, I have had to, on a couple of occasions, help my mother with some moisturizing lotion on her feet. Normally she has someone who does this for her. Another time when we were swimming and my wife was sitting on the side, I sort of pretended to be washing feet that by that point were obviously clean. I can’t describe it but there is something spiritual in the servitude of this; something God knew all along and something Jesus modeled for us. You may not want to go to a church and experience this — not yet, anyway — but it’s something you might start by doing as a family.

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